October 2, 2023


El Chicano, Colton Courier, Rialto Record

Pechanga Indian Reservation

3 min read

Photo Credit: joefidelio.files.wordpress.com

The Pechanga Resort and Casino is an Indian Casino on the Pechanga Indian Reservation in Temecula, California. It is the largest casino in the State of California. With 3,400 slot machines and about 188,000 sq. feet of gaming space.

Stella and I joined a bus load of people from the Highland Senior Center the other day for the Pechanga Casino. One hour to get there and one and a half to come home-traffic was bad.

On June 24, 2017, the $262 million PRandC will celebrate its 15th anniversary. The entire facility was designed to highlight the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians’ culture.

Unbelievably, this included 85,000 sq. ft. casino, a 1,200 seat showroom, 515,000 sq. ft. with a 14 story-522 room hotel, 38,800 sq. ft. convention center, 200 seat cabaret lounge, and Eagle’s Nest Lounge and seven restaurants.

Amazingly in November of 2004 a 100,000 sq. ft. expansion added more gaming space, a food court area, a 54-table poker room and Kelsoy’s sports restaurant.

Golfers, read the following. A golf course, Journey at Pechanga, opened in August, 2008 and the clubhouse in November of 2008. Together it involved 62,000 sq. ft. In getting a clearer understanding of the Pechangans, a broader view of them must be taken. For example, the name itself. The term Pechanga describes a party or a fiesta. It originated from the Mexican Culture in Texas.

The Pechangans are generally known as the Luisenos after the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. However, the Pechanga Indians believe life on earth began in the Temecula Valley. They also believe their ancestors have lived in the Temecula area for more than 10,000 years.

The first recorded Spanish contact was October 1797. The trip also included Lake Elsinore. The dominate presence of Mexico began many years of conflict, war and massacres. Each winning and losing. Hundreds of Pechangans were slaughtered by the rival Cahuila Tribe. Hundreds were buried in a mound that can be seen from Highway 79.

Perhaps the most misunderstood period of history for the Native Americans revolves around the various mission established by Father Junipero Serra. Making history has glamorized their treatment. Which researchers branded the so-called documentation as lies.

The missions, from San Diego to San Francisco, enslaved most of the Indians. Their cultures were compromised; they were forced to become Christians, work long hours in the mines, and fields, eat food that was foreign to them and many other demeaning activities. Basically, poverty was their lot in life.

The problem with this behavior is that too often Native Americans have been classified as lazy, thieves, alcoholics and even criminals.

The establishment of resorts and casinos has changed the common perception. Men like James Ramos, Supervisor, and others have elevated the negative viewpoints concerning Native Americans.

This statement is a disclaimer regarding the following comments. In spite of the annual income of the Pechanga Casino-between 1 and 2 billion dollars a year-there is great contention within the ranks. Again, in spite of the fact that each tribe member receives between 300 and 400 thousand dollars per year.

The conflict is over disenrollment. The issue is over bloodlines. Who is and who isn’t a real Pechangan.

But those kicked out insist the issue is really about money. They are being deprived of healthcare, education opportunities for the children and monthly stipends. Two cousins, Rick Cueras and Michael Medariaga, are the major combatants on the side disbarred in 2006.

Madariaga says, “We have the original deed signed by President McKinley.” He is the spokesman for those excommunicated. He also states, “It’s about money and political power.”

A recognized anthropologist is quoted as saying that the disenrolled are Pechangans. He also said, “I am surprised and dismayed that the tribe continues to maintain otherwise.”

The Pechanga leaders have refused repeatedly requests for an on-camera interview. However, the tribe chairman, Mark Macarro has said, “The issue is a question of ancestry.”

As of now, those “outside” have no legal recourse, BECAUSE INDIAN RESERVATIONS ARE SOVEREIGN. Meaning they are beyond the USA courts. “In the meantime, Cuevas and Madariaga are left with memories and nowhere to turn.” Cuevas said, “Now we can’t be buried here next to our relatives.”

Much of the material in this article was taken from a CBS News investigation.

Personally, I hope both sides will soon reconcile their quarrels and once again live together peacefully.

Amen. Selah. So be it.


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